IT is interesting that Simon Festing (letters Mar 13) in one breath supports the report by Neil Parish MEP on the revision of the European animal experiments directive and, in another, says he agrees that standards in Europe should come up to the UK’s.

UK standards leave a great deal to be desired, but Mr Parish’s report would make things even worse. For example, it would allow suffering which was both severe and prolonged and repeated re-use of the same animal in painful experiments. And, animal experimenters would not even need to get the permission of their government, a cornerstone of the UK system - in the vast majority of cases.

Dr Festing makes the usual claim about animal experiments being vital for finding cures for serious illnesses. Leaving aside the fact that Mr Parish would allow cruel experiments for all sorts of other purposes as well, here are just a couple of facts. Not one of the 60 or more candidate vaccine for HIV/AIDS tested successfully on primates has worked in patients; similarly over 1,000 potential stroke treatments have been tested in animal models but none of the 100 which have progressed to human trials has proved successful.

A former director of the US National Cancer Institute has remarked: The history of cancer research has been the history of curing cancer in the mouse. We have cured mice of cancer for decades and it simply didn’t work in human beings,” and the US Food and Drug Administration has said: “Nine out of ten experimental drugs fail in clinical studies because we cannot accurately predict how they will behave in people based on laboratory and animal studies.”

Meanwhile the huge potential of non-animal alternatives, such as microdosing and computer simulation, lies largely untapped and underfunded.

Europe has a historic opportunity to relegate cruel, often unreliable science - around 12 million animal experiments each year - to the dustbin of history and embrace humane, modern techniques - for the benefit of everyone, people and animals.